Sally Burdon - ILAB President - Inaugural Speech at ILAB Gala Dinner, Pasadena
Was there ever a time since the founding of ILAB in 1947 when the importance of ILAB was greater? I would argue, the trade has never been more international, and therefore there has never been greater need for ILAB than now. It is therefore with a great sense of responsibility I take on the role of the 25th president of ILAB.
I recognise that the ILAB Presidency is a singular honour. However I am very well aware that the honour is not given lightly and expectations are and should be high. I see this leadership role as that of a coordinator of ideas, a facilitator of inclusion, a promoter of the high ethical standards, as well as someone who recognises problems and does their best to tackle them. I will not come up with all the ideas, I will not do all the work, but I intend to be the best coordinator I can be, a good listener, reflective and open to new ideas.
I am sure you will agree with me that a strong body known for its high standards is what we require representing the world of antiquarian booksellers. It is certainly what ILAB committees and affiliates have been striving for, for decades now and to a very great extent we have achieved this. However we are only as good as our weakest link and as a group we need to keep this in mind. Achieving high standards is a work in progress. ILAB is a unique international group. We are in a position to promise and deliver excellence and expertise to collectors and institutions. We need to grab this opportunity. Today’s world is one where ever increasingly customers seek reassurance – they are in a position to buy from anyone across the globe but they want to be sure that every aspect of their purchase will go well. We as affiliates, or as we more colloquially call ourselves members of ILAB, need to constantly consider our own behaviour and we need to press our own national associations to establish and maintain the highest standards. Because however you look at it ILAB is only the sum of all the national associations. ILAB does not tell you what to do. The ILAB Committee’s role is to investigate and to advise the presidents of the national associations, with whom the power of the League lies. What ILAB does is decided by the National Associations. This is why it is vital that if you want something changed, something done, you communicate this clearly with your national association – or contact me or one of the other members of the ILAB Committee.
Over my term as ILAB president there is much, I hope, we will achieve. We need to address issues surrounding good governance, we need to promote our booksellers to our market, look at developing the market by finding ways of developing interest in antiquarian materials in countries not served by a national association, we must communicate, we must continue our role in supporting newer booksellers through mentoring and promote education surrounding bookselling and the antiquarian trade. Most importantly of all we need to continue to work on making ILAB the gold standard, making sure that the ILAB logo is synonymous with integrity and honour. This is not something the ILAB Committee can do alone, we can advise, we can show the way but we cannot achieve this without YOU.
I believe there has never been a time when it is more necessary to offer to collectors and institutions a clear indication that ILAB is the organisation that represents the highest standards. A gathering of professional booksellers who deliver the best they can and if a problem occurs, as it inevitably can, booksellers who the buyer can be sure will work towards a sensible and fair solution without delay. Bookselling is global in the way it has never been before and this trend will undoubtedly continue to accelerate. More than ever people seek and need a brand that can be trusted. Uniquely ILAB is that brand.
And now some personal words about the individuals I have had the good fortune to work with. My heartfelt thanks go firstly to Gonzalo Fernandez Pontes whose wise and thoughtful role I have to try to fill. This will be difficult task and I know that I will be taking advantage of Gonzalo’s wise counsel in his role as immediate past president. Thank you Gonzalo for the excellent job you have done. I am looking forward to working with the talented incoming committee - Fabrizio Govi, Stuart Bennett, Rob Shepherd, Oscar Graves-Johnston, Robert Schoisengeier, Anne Lamort and Pavel Chepyzhov. Thanks also to Michel Bouvier, who has just stepped down from the committee. These people are my respected and treasured colleagues. I thank you all for your commitment and contributions and look forward to working with the incoming committee.
ILAB is fortunate to have two talented and dedicated consultants, Neveen Marsh who been at the heart of ILAB’s administration for the last 16 years and who most unfortunately not here tonight as she is facing a very difficult health issue and Press Officer Angelika Elstner.
I have worked closely with Angelika and I can tell you she is a powerhouse of ideas as well as a truly diligent and intelligent worker.
Neveen Marsh's dedication to ILAB, her knowledge, her intelligence, her language skills and her running of the management side of ILAB over these last nearly 2 decades is an achievement that is impossible to quantify. This congress has not been the same without her.
However Neveen’s work is tangible even in this room tonight. You will have received a copy of her recently published book: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers: An Historical Index, 1947 – 2017 as you came in tonight. I know she would like me to acknowledge the help and generosity of the publisher Rob Fleck of Oak Knoll Press and his colleagues in bringing this book to fruition. This book is a mini encyclopaedia of ILAB’s 70 years of history. Taken from original ILAB documents written over the last 70 years Nevine has put into an easily accessible form the problems, triumphs and unstinting effort that those booksellers who served on the national associations and ILAB committees of the past have put into creating what the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers is today. This book stands as a commemoration of 70 years of hard work, but most importantly, it is a record to which we can refer and learn from giving us the benefit of the knowledge and wisdom of ILAB past, as well as from those present. I thank Nevine for this – and for all she has done… Our thoughts are with Nevine and her husband Alain during this difficult period in her life.
Looking ahead to happier times, I am excited thinking that our next Congress will be held in Amsterdam and some other smaller cities in the Netherlands. Frank Rutten and the Dutch National Association President Gert Bestebreurtje and his colleagues have begun work on a very stimulating programme and invite you all to join them in Amsterdam in 2019. Tomorrow morning at the ILAB General Assembly they will be showing a small film and talking about this Congress – make sure to join us at 10am tomorrow at the Pasadena Convention Center to hear about this. The General Assembly is also a chance to hear what ILAB will be doing and to make suggestions and ask questions. Please come!
Finally I am sure you will agree the last few days at ILAB’s 43rd Congress have been truly wonderful – a very well organised packed programme of extraordinary places, mind-blowing books, wonderful food, interesting talks and of course most importantly the opportunity to form and reaffirm friendships with booksellers from across the world. Our deepest thanks to the ABAA President Mary Gilliam, the ABAA Board and all members of the ABAA who not only agreed to host the Congress but also provided three scholarships to young booksellers – I received one from the ABAA 20 years ago so I know just how powerful this gift can be. Thanks also to the California Chapter of the ABAA and most especially to Jen and Brad Johnson who have worked so hard and long on this Congress. Brad and Jen also put together a cheerful and endlessly helpful team Mechele, Jodi, Ashley, Kate, Kent and Neil. As anyone who has organised an event on anything approaching this scale knows, the cost to your own business is considerable. It is a sacrifice for the good of us all. Adequate thanks for this are, of course, impossible but as just a small token of our gratitude ILAB has had a special plaque made for Jen and Brad.
As I ask Jen and Brad to please step forward to receive this, I ask you to join me in raising a glass in deepest thanks to Jen and Brad